April 23, 2019

The Comfort of the Commonplace

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

By John F. Chisholm •

I know that renovations are worth the time, effort, expense and bother.  Really, I know that.  But living with the unavoidable disruption, that’s another thing altogether.

Right now we’re renovating both of our bathrooms.  Believe me, they need it.  They’ve met our demands for twenty-five years.  In addition to ourselves, there are our two children.  Of course there are occasionally guests, family and friends, staying over as well.  Keeping everyone bathed, sanitary and healthy is a tall order.  Meeting it, our bathrooms paid a terrible price.  The porcelain fixtures are still intact.  I think.  Everything else?  Yeah.  It’s all gone.

Right now the plumber is cutting out the wall behind the downstairs tub.

Apparently the enclosure leaked.  Everything has to be replaced prior to tiling and installing a set of new, glass shower doors.  The reciprocating siren of his saber saw and the swirl of gypsum dust fill the house.  The vibrations jar me as I write.  White powder covers my computer screen in between the Wite-Out corrections.  I’m blaming the noise but can’t keep my train of thought.  In fact I’m looking back on the days of molding, mercury-laced bathroom paint with real nostalgia.

At least it moldered in peace.

This being the case, I can’t help but wonder.  Where’s the tipping point?  When does anyone pull the trigger on all this aggravation, write a blank check for repairs and call in the contractors?

Here, the answer is entirely up to circumstance and timing.

The Ice Storm of ’98 broke our main chimney when a six-inch slab of ice slid off our roof, taking all exposed brick with it.  Yeah.  We needed that fixed right away.  Our furnace is on that flue.  There wasn’t any hot water and no heat in the living room until that chimney was repaired.

On the other hand, these bathroom renovations were caused by slow, gradual wear and erosion, not just of our bathrooms, but of our standard of living.  We were used to jiggling the toilet flush so that the tank would refill.  Lysol sent us a personal letter of thanks for the gallons of disinfectant purchased fighting all that mold at the ceiling / wall junctures.  And who counts sheep?  I counted drips.  I did so for years.  That upstairs bathroom faucet was a godsend on many a sleepless night.

Isn’t it strange how the common, the accepted, the norm is so comforting?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure that these new bathrooms will eventually fall into a comfortable state of disrepair, too.  Toothpaste will again spatter the mirrors.  Carelessly folded, rumpled towels will once more fall off the racks and decorate the floors.  Drips will return, adding calcium to the already-stained porcelain beneath.  As high-usage, high-humidity rooms, bathrooms can’t avoid any of this.

Getting there is the issue.

Beginning the process all over again, replacing the old in favor of the new isn’t as easy as some might imagine.  Particularly when the noise and mess of renovation argue in favor of the status quo.

So sure, I know that renovations are worth the time, effort, expense and bother.  Really, I do.  But living without the comfort of the commonplace while we wait for its return?

Call me foolish.

That’s what I find so difficult.